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In Case of Emergency 17/07/2013

It's summer holiday time and for many people that'll mean enjoying some great days out in the hills. But would you know how to call for help in case of an accident? A survey carried out in Wales came to the conclusion that the majority of hill-goers do not know how to summon help in the event of an emergency while walking or climbing.

In the research carried out by Mountain Medicine student, Julia Kramer, at Ysbyty Gwynedd (Gwynedd Hospital) only 5% of the 256 mountain users questioned were aware of the correct procedure to call for help in the event of a medical emergency that cannot be reached by road. 61% would have first asked for an ambulance, unaware that only the police can task mountain rescue teams.

Not calling the police first and then asking for mountain rescue could cause a delay in the mountain rescue being called out with serious consequences. Julia Kramer's study points out that of the 13 UK ambulance services questioned, only two have set procedures for handling calls requiring a search and rescue element.

REMEMBER: in the event of an emergency in the UK hills call 999 (or the European Union emergency number 112 that runs in parallel) > ask for police > request mountain rescue.

If you don't have a strong enough phone signal to make a voice call on your mobile, as mountain areas often have poor reception, then there may be enough signal to text the emergency services on 999 using emergencySMS. But to use this emergencySMS service you are first required to register your mobile phone number.

The text system is meant to be used only when voice calls cannot be made and the system does not guarantee that texts will be delivered, so users should wait until they receive a reply from the emergency services before assuming help has been summoned. The system was originally set up to help the deaf and hard of hearing. A voice call is always the first option.

Lyle Brotherton, author of the Ultimate Navigation Manual, explains in the video below how to maximise your chances of contacting the emergency services using a mobile phone in the mountains.

There's even a smartphone app available, Echo112, that will dial the emergency services with the simple press of an SOS button, wherever you are in the world. It then allows your exact location to be plotted on a web site. Once you get through to an emergency operator, they can visit echo112.com and enter your mobile number to get your exact location. If phone service is limited, the app will send an SMS text message with your location instead.

Field tested by the Swiss emergency services it's free and available for both iOS and Android. The app has a test button, so you can do a dummy run and see how it would work in an emergency.

Of course it's important to bear in mind that technology is no replacement for preparation and planning before setting-off, in order to minimise the risk of any potential mishaps. In summary:
  1. If your mobile phone has a signal you can dial 999/112 and ask for police > request mountain rescue.
  2. If your mobile phone has NO signal you can still TRY and dial 999/112 and if you are LUCKY you may pick up on another network signal and this will put you through.
  3. If you dial 999/112 and you have NO signal and your phone CAN'T connect to an alternative mobile network you will not be able to speak to the emergency services.
  4. If you don't have a strong enough phone signal to make a voice call on your mobile, as mountain areas often have poor reception, then there may be enough signal to text the emergency services using emergencySMS (register number first).

Topic: Mountain Rescue, Mountain Safety, Hill Safe.

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